Sami, Indigenous People of Northern Europe, Played Role in DAPL Divestment

Sápmi is the name of the cultural region traditionally inhabited by the Sami people. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Sápmi is the name of the cultural region traditionally inhabited by the Sami people. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

A second Norwegian bank has pulled its funding from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), according to a Nov. 25 story in EcoWatch. Odin Fund Management, one of Norway’s leading fund managers, said it sold $23.8 million worth of shares in companies involved with the pipeline.

We blogged earlier that DNB, Norway’s largest bank, had decided to divest its assets from DAPL (though it still has a line of credit to the project).

Why Norway?

Norway is an ocean and a half-continent away from Standing Rock. Is it that Norway is simply a more  socially-minded country? Perhaps. But there also is a fascinating backstory that could be part of the explanation. The Sámi people, indigenous people of northern Europe, seem to have played an important role in pressuring DNB to divest.

It’s a story of cross Atlantic indigenous connections and a bit of serendipity.The story unfolds in a wonderful piece of reporting in Truthout, headlined: How Indigenous Activists in Norway Got the First Bank to Pull Out of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The article introduces you to Ellen Marie Jensen, a Sámi-American studying in Norway and protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline at DNB banks. “Norwegian and Sámi people settled in North Dakota and settled the lands that the [Sioux] people were removed from,” Jensen told Truthout. “We have a responsibility to help them.”

You also meet Mike Scott, a Sierra Club organizer in Montana. Of Sami descent himself, he also wanted to help. He reached out through a Sami-American Facebook group and met Jensen. She connected him with Beaska Niillas, chairman of the Norwegian Sámi Association.

Niillas and his wife Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska (who had been to Standing Rock) were set to meet with top DNB officials to talk about divesting from the pipeline. To make their case, they wanted to have independent documentation of the human rights abuses.

Scott knew law school graduate Michelle Cook, a member of the Honághááhnii Clan of the Navajo nation, who had worked at the Standing Rock camp as part of the Red Owl Legal Collective. Cook had left the camp to attend to family matters, but she told Scott she had just finished exactly the kind of research Niillas needed.

Niillas got Cook’s 20-page report hours before the meeting with DNB officials.

It’s difficult to know cause and effect, but according to the article: “Shortly after that meeting, on November 17, 2016, DNB sold off $3 million in assets.”

It’s a great piece, read it in full.

Sami in Minneapolis to Raise Money for Standing Rock

On Sunday, Dec. 11, a Sami delegation will share an evening of traditional Sámi Joiking (singing) and an exhibition of their Duodji, their traditional handicrafts, at Walker Community United Methodist Church, 3104 16th Ave S, Minneapolis, 7-9 p.m.

There is no cost for the event, but the church encourages free will monetary donations to purchase furs and hides that the Sámi will be using for their work at Standing Rock.

One delegation member, Sámi rights activist Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska, is a member of the Sami Parliament. She had traveled to North Dakota in September with members of her community to show their solidarity with Standing Rock. They are on a return trip. Here is a video titled “We Speak Earth” where Saup Beaska talks about the impact of global warming on her people.

Report to DNB on Conditions at Standing Rock

As mentioned above, check out the 20-page report encouraging DNB to divest from DAPL. It is a useful resource that chronicles the laundry list of abuses suffered by the Water Protectors. They include:

  • The use of chemical agents,  rubber bullets, and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD).
  • “At least one report of an officer aiming a tear gas canister at an individual’s head, striking him in the neck” and “multiple flash bang grenades thrown into a crowd that included many elderly and otherwise vulnerable people.”
  • The “taking of sacred items, including pipes and staffs, from Native water protectors.”

The report states:

Water Protectors, youth, women and elders in the encampment live under intense and ongoing military conditions and surveillance. Communications from individuals inside the camp include documenting the nighttime shining of industrial floodlights onto the camp which deprives them of sleep, as well as the flying of helicopters and airplanes overhead at all hours of the night.
It continues:
“There have also been an alarming number of corroborated reports of unnecessary, inhumane, and unconstitutional treatment of individuals after arrest, including: The use of dehumanizing tactics including marking arrestees’ arms with numbers, cavity and strip searches, cutting piercings off with bolt cutters, and failing to provide food and water to inmates for long periods of time, containment in dog kennels in makeshift conditions en-mass …”


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